Friday, April 27, 2007

Pg. 69: "The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test is Patricia Vigderman's The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

About the book, from the publisher:
A fascinating meditation on art and personality, Patricia Vigderman’s exploration of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s famous Boston museum radiates out from its subject to investigate Gardner’s legacy of luxury and willfulness. Isabella Gardner’s high spirits and aesthetic pleasure, her women friends and female power, her friendships with the adventurers and aesthetes of her world, are gathered into this engrossing investigation of patronage and passion. Blending biography, memoir, philosophy, and detective story, The Memory Palace is more than a tribute to the museum and the woman; it is an altogether new genre. Vigderman’s witty and intimate quest for her subject sets a literary precedent for the appreciation of artistic imagination. Loosening up the past, entering its mysteries and its memories, she reminds us that we change our lives when we begin a relationship with art.
Among the praise for the book:

"What a great pleasure this gorgeous little book has given me! It should be offered everywhere indeed, and at every museum shop on earth. Quite aside from finding it one of the best things of its kind I’ve ever read, I think it offers freedom to think and to meditate, wandering through spaces that speak to sensibility. I loved the combination of felicitous language and current remark.... Oh my goodness, what didn’t I love?"
—Honor Moore

"In her journey into the worlds of the willful and wonderful Isabella Stewart Gardner and her beloved and immutable museum, Patricia Vigderman has written a book of lyrical attention and poetic fluidity. Taking her leads from Gardner's personality and life, she is as receptive to the offbeat and the forgotten as she is to the canonical. She finds in the museum's artworks and artifacts, in its eccentric installations, and in Gardner's friendships and patronages, essential clues to the secrets of an individual and institution that seem designed to resist access and change. This book makes it possible for us to feel we can touch not just a decisive 19th-century American moment but also an extraordinary and elusive person, while leaving the mystery at her center intact. After reading the book, no one will feel the same way about Gardner, her museum, and the relationship between contemporary art and the past."
—Michael Brenson, Art Critic

Patricia Vigderman's recent writing has appeared in The Georgia Review, Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, Northwest Review, Raritan, Seneca Review, and Southwest Review. She divides her year between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Gambier, Ohio, where she teaches in the English department at Kenyon College.

Learn more about The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner, and read an excerpt, at the publisher's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

--Marshal Zeringue